Legion Baseball: Burlington 7, Rowan 5
By David Shaw
GRAHAM ó Rowan County let Game 1 of its third-round playoff series slip through its hands like a wet bar of soap on Saturday.
RC yielded six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to host Burlington-Graham and suffered a 7-5 loss, its first of the postseason. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled tonight at Newman Park.
“It’s a bad game to lose because it’s the first one of the series,” coach Jim Gantt said after Rowan (26-9) watched a four-run seventh-inning lead evaporate. “We still had a few innings to play but we felt like we had it in control. They got some key hits, but we kind of gave them this game.”
Burlington (25-5) ó a team that belted 11 home runs and scored 79 times in winning its first six playoff games ó managed only eight hits against Rowan starting pitcher Tanner Brown and three relievers. But Post 63 capitalized on a pair of Rowan errors and made off with an unlikely victory.
“We got those five runs and Tanner was really on his game,” said RC first-baseman Trey Holmes. “Then all of a sudden it just turned 180 degrees.”
Brown’s performance through six innings was truly melodic. He’d allowed only one run on three hits and enjoyed a 5-1 lead as the bottom of the seventh kicked off.
“For the first five innings or so we couldn’t hit that kid,” said winning pitcher Tyler Snow, who also delivered the game-winning hit. “He has a slow windup, but the ball sneaks up on you fast.”
Rowan’s seventh-inning wretch began when outfielders Micah Jarrett and Zack Smith collided in right-center on a leadoff ground-rule double by B-G’s Colt Johnson.
“One of them called it and the other tried to get out of the way but ran into him,” Gantt reported. “I don’t know. I’m used to those balls being caught.”
Brown hit the next batter before Snow ó who retired nine straight batters after relieving Burlington starter Cale Rogers in the top of the seventh ó pushed a sacrifice bunt attempt toward first base. Holmes looked like he was going to field the ball, then pulled back and watched it roll straight into the bag.
A base hit by Post 63’s Adam Norris plated the first of four seventh-inning runs and chased Brown. Matt Hall immediately induced a harmless flyout to shallow right field before issuing a bases-loaded walk to Matt Parker. Holmes relieved and coaxed an RBI groundout before yielding the tying run on a wild pitch.
“We were doing a lot of good things early on,” said Jarrett, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Rowan sixth. “Then about halfway through the umpire changed his strike zone and a few of us started getting frustrated. We started getting some unlucky breaks.”
The most important one came in the last of the eighth inning, when Burlington put runners on first and second with one away against Rowan’s Cody Laws. Snow slapped a ground-ball single into right field to make it 6-5. And when the ball bunny-hopped past Smith and went to the fence, the hosts had themselves an insurance run.
“We’ve got to look on the bright side,” said Holmes. “It’s only the first game and we haven’t really hurt ourselves. We just let this one go.”
NOTES: Jarrett’s home run came on 0-2 spring-training fastball and was his third long ball in the past two games. … Both Trey and Noah Holmes had two hits for RC. … Gantt said lefthander Zach Simpson (2-0, 2.14 ERA) will start tonight against Burlington’s Jason Groce.